I decided to drop out of Ambassador College sometime during my second semester there, but didn’t tell anybody. I intended to keep my grades up and finish the semester, hoping I might be able to transfer the credits to another school. Some credits, of course, would never transfer, including ones from the religion class taught by Rod Meredith. I kept attending it and smiling and nodding because I didn’t want to call attention to myself. Anyone who showed signs of a bad attitude would be counseled by a minister, and I wanted to avoid such a scene at all costs. But I didn’t do much else connected to the class, because it bored me and the grade no longer mattered. Figuring nobody would call me on the carpet merely for low grades, I quit studying the readings, so of course performed poorly on tests. I was running a risk here, because Meredith (as his nickname “Rod of Iron” implies) had high standards and enforced them sternly. If he did call me in for counseling, it was almost guaranteed he would inflict deep humiliation. Fortunately I guessed right about how much I could afford to slack off without attracting attention. Meredith didn’t counsel me, nor did anyone else, for the whole second half of the semester.
Thus I was able to get out of Pasadena and go home to Arkansas with no awkward encounters. Almost.
Our big final out-of-class assignment was to turn in an outline of Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I couldn’t stand to do it. If we had been required to focus on one event or character in it and do an analysis, I might have felt intrigued and challenged, but the requirement just to spit the whole thing back in outline form turned me right off. I made up my mind not to mess around with mediocre performance in Meredith’s class; I would shoot for the lowest grade possible. I would flunk that sucker. So I didn’t even read Decline and Fall. Still haven’t, after all these years. I know it’s a monument of Western culture and all that, but no. Willful ignorance.
(To all you young people reading this page I hereby offer myself as a bad example—but not bad in all respects. Learn from my mistake. Don’t revel in your ignorance. Read Gibbon. Ponder its implications. Outline the book if it helps you understand it. Just don’t let anybody force you to.)
Anyway, after final tests were over and I was packing for the trip home on a Greyhound Bus, I got a telephone call from Meredith’s paper grader, one of the top senior students. I forget his name, but he always struck me as a decent fellow, and this call strengthened that impression. He was doing his job conscientiously, and he seemed sincerely concerned.
Politely, he said, “I was grading the Gibbon outlines, and I couldn’t find yours.”
Politely, I said, “No. That’s because I didn’t turn one in.”
“Oh . . . . Well, how soon did you plan to do that?”
“Actually, I didn’t plan to do it at all.” I kept my voice matter-of-fact. I offered no explanations.
His exact words after that I do not recall—he didn’t say much—but I clearly remember his tone. The poor guy was totally nonplussed. He quickly hung up. I figured my F was in the bag, because I had (politely) demonstrated that I deserved it.
Imagine my disappointment back in Arkansas when grades finally came in the mail, and I saw that Meredith had given me a D!
Some ten years later I began my career as a college English teacher. Over the next thirty-five years I regularly told this story to students, always reassuring them that I would never award them a grade they had not earned. I would conclude by saying, “I don’t want you to lose respect for me the way I lost respect for Roderick Meredith.”
Some of my English teacher colleagues who heard this story over the years believed I was too hard on Meredith. One of them said, “You don’t know what he was thinking. You kept on going to class; maybe he thought you were really trying.” Another said, “or maybe he counted attendance as a bigger part of your grade than you thought.” Another pointed out that the outline assignment, even though it was a requirement, might not have counted for a very high percentage of the total points in the course. Well, maybe they’re right. Also I sometimes guess that he gave me a D because he thought an F might cause me to drop out. Ironic, hunh?
The weakest defense any of my colleagues offered was, “He was just being kind to you.” I entirely discounted that explanation.
The most important lesson Christianity offers for our daily guidance is that we should treat other people the way we ourselves hope to be treated. Armstrongism smothers that message under a pile of petty rules about what people should eat, when and how they should observe holy days, and how they should behave toward members above and below them in the hierarchy.
The rules about hierarchy are the most damaging. Herbert W. Armstrong repeatedly insisted that democratic principles, which he derided as “government from the bottom up,” are all wrong. “Government,” he would shout, “is from the TOP DOWN!” According to this principle, the duty of church members is to submit to authority. Just as surely, the duty of ministers is to wield it. A name Armstrong never used for church governance, but which nevertheless applies to his style of it, is tyranny. By demanding that people treat others strictly according to their rank instead of their shared humanity, tyranny tramples all over the Golden Rule.
Most of what, as a child, I heard Armstrong say on The World Tomorrow has either faded from memory or never made it there in the first place, but I do remember how he contrasted the behavior of two groups of diners in a German restaurant after the war. The Americans tried to interact with the waiters (or waitresses, I forget which) and treated them politely, saying “Bitte” and “Danke schoen.” The British pretended they were invisible except when barking orders and shouting rebukes at them. Armstrong declared that the British got better service. Only dimly do I recall what his main point was. Probably he meant that you have to get stern with people you have just conquered, especially if they happen to be Germans. However, I clearly remember the satisfaction in his voice, and that tipped his hand: he didn’t just recommend ordering people around, he gloried in it.
In some public presentation or another during my school year at Ambassador College, Garner Ted Armstrong explained how Herbert corrected him for missteps in doing the broadcast. For example, he told us that in one series of programs he had repeatedly used more statistics than listeners could absorb. His father said nothing about the problem at first; he waited till listenership fell off a few points and letters of complaint came in. Then Herbert called Garner Ted on the carpet and went on a long and abusive tirade. One thing he yelled, as I recall the son telling it, was “Are you trying to DESTROY the work of God?” Garner Ted presented the story admiringly, as an example to follow, but I couldn’t help thinking it showed bad management style.
I never personally saw Herbert blow up but once; on that occasion he displayed a zest for chewing people out that bordered on hysteria.
For part of my work-study duty, I worked on the construction crew. On one project, we were restoring a reflecting pool on the grounds of one of the old mansions Ambassador had acquired. For us laborers with little appreciation for the intricacies of restoration, it was merely a hard, dirty job with shovels and wheelbarrows. Our foreman, though, found it fascinating. He set up a surveyor’s transit and eagerly checked our progress. For sealing cracks he experimented with a newly introduced product called epoxy and grinned in satisfaction when it worked. He was a stern and distant boss, but I didn’t hold that against him because it was clear that the church expected him to be. Stern or not, he did treat us fairly. I wish I could remember his name, because he deserves credit.
One day Herbert came out to inspect the project. He brought four or five guys in suits. Since I didn’t recognize them, they might have been men from “outside” that he wanted to impress. He took one look at our work and started yelling. THIS wasn’t what he had in mind! He didn’t want that shabby old pool RESTORED! He wanted a NEW one! Somebody should get some heavy equipment in here, tear everything out, and START OVER! It took him a couple of minutes to reach his oratorical peak, wind down, and stalk off. The suits followed, looking abashed.
Armstrong hurt my feelings a little even though I held no stake in the project other than grunt work. Our foreman, who had invested so much of himself in it, kept a stoic expression. Yet I knew he must have been crushed and humiliated, and I grieved for him. I wondered why in the world someone claiming to be the apostle of a loving god couldn’t manage the decency to make a private appointment with the foreman. There he could have explained with regret and sympathy that the work, fine as it might be, was not what he had in mind. It was cruel to humiliate the poor guy in front of both his crew and a gaggle of outsiders. My coworkers must have felt bad for him too, but we all kept our faces as stony as his, and we did nothing to console or support him. After all, how can underlings presume to offer consolation or support to their superiors? The strict hierarchy robbed us of our common humanity.
It also rendered us inert in the face of abuse. None of us expressed disapproval of Armstrong’s behavior. None of us uttered the name for a person who acts the way he had just done, because in our unwritten church thesaurus that word was not counted among the synonyms for apostle. On every other job I’ve held—as farm hand, mill hand, service station attendant, construction worker, short order cook, gravedigger, office flunky, dialect fieldworker, and college teacher—the accepted term is asshole.
Well, it is encouraging to report that some people can resist pressure to act tyrannical even when standing on their particular rung in a hierarchy. One such was Lynn Torrance, who taught my freshman English class at Ambassador.
One day, a few class members got into a discussion about some minor point of usage. I can’t remember what it was; all I recall is that both options sounded fine and the slight difference between them would have very little effect on either clarity or grace. I sat there scratching aimless doodles in my notebook, waiting for one side or the other to give in or drop the subject. Neither side did; the discussion dragged on.
Torrance had confidence in me. Partway through the school year he had come to trust my knowledge of grammar and punctuation enough to hire me as his grading assistant. When he needed some bibliography work done, he gave me the keys to his car and sent me downtown to the public library. It’s not surprising that he assumed I could offer a worthwhile insight to this discussion. He asked, “August, what do you think?”
I looked up from my doodling and said, “I think we fail to recognize the overwhelming insignificance of this question.”
There must be a way to utter that line so it sounds lighthearted and amusing, but I didn’t manage to do it that way. My boredom and irritation showed through, so the remark just sounded snotty. Nobody—not even a person “of the world,” much less a believer in church hierarchy—could have blamed Torrance if he had pinned my ears back. He did not.
Without either rancor or defensiveness, he explained that he thought the discussion was worthwhile because he was trying to teach us to become careful stylists. He wanted us to understand that even the smallest decisions about sentence structure, word choice, and punctuation are worth considering. When we revise, they are worth reconsidering.
That lesson was a good one. I profited from it. But I profited even more from the lesson Torrance taught by example to this teacher-to-be: when confronted with a young smartass, it is generally worthwhile to exercise a little forbearance. The Golden Rule is not just the law, it’s a good idea. Best to deflect barbs and redirect them toward a lesson that will benefit the whole group. In my own dealings with students, I usually managed to follow Lynn Torrance’s example. On those occasions when I fell instead into the “blow up and humiliate the offender” behavior displayed by Herbert W. Armstrong, I nearly always regretted it.
Hats off to Mike for his diligence and persistent work exposing this religious charlatan, Ron Weinland.
…..with a guest post written by Jeffery, a former PKG elder over the Florida area. Jeffery has participated in the comment section on this blog since late last year. His resignation email was republished here.
Here is Jeffery’s story:
First, I would like to take this moment to thank Mike for this opportunity to present my experience with the notorious Ronald Weinland and “his” church known as CoG-PKG. I also want to thank Mike for his website and all the information he has incorporated into his blog which was a great benefit to me in making my decision to leave CoG-PKG.
I have a history with the Worldwide Church of God that began in 1973. I was a devoted member up to the moment when WCG changed the doctrine of keeping the Sabbath and Holy Days. The year was 1994. It was not until 2001 that I had a growing desire to find the church that I once knew. Of course, this was all done through the Internet. However, I did not make a choice until 2007. My first encounter was with the Restored Church of God led by David Pack. This lasted only a few months. I rejected this church because I found it to be too demanding on one’s life. This frustrated me so I continue my search on the Internet.
I came across Ronald Weinland’s website just after my experience with David Pack. At first, I was not impressed with Ron’s website. I just wrote it off as being one of those nutty doomsday preachers, not realizing I was correct in my assumption. But eventually I decided to read both of his books.
You have to understand that I was desperate and looking for anything that resembled Mr. Armstrong’s teachings. Because of this desire to be a part of the church again, there was enough of what I recognized of Mr. Armstrong’s teachings that led me to CoG-PKG. I was then hooked and proceeded to become more involved.
Eventually I was able to attend with the Florida group. There were many problems with this group. Such as excessive drinking on the Sabbath and an elder who was a hard core controlling individual and encouraged the excessive drinking as a means to control the younger members who knew no better. I took issue with this and confronted Ron and Johnny about this matter. The next thing I knew I was ordained an elder and took over the affairs of the Florida group. Did this affect me? Yes it did! I become enthralled with the idea of being an elder in God’s Church! To clarify, I always had the desire to be a minister and now, in my pride, I was one!! So, for a period of five years I ran the affairs of the Florida group. Also, I met and had several social engagements with Ron, Laura, Johnny and Myrtle in Florida and Ohio. They knew me and I knew them.
So what led to my departure from CoG-PKG?
Let me interject this first. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resource Management and Organizational Structure and Behavior. The majority of my career has been in senior management in municipal government. What is the purpose of this information?
To begin, I started to take notice of the lack of qualified individuals in leadership positions. I am referring to individuals who were handpicked (favoritism) by Ron Weinland for leadership positions without having the qualifications or proper training for the position. It became obvious that Ron was the sole authority figure as he did not allow any ordained individuals to have any decisive authority regarding local matters without his prior approval.
That was the first red flag, in that, I had to question why was I an elder and for what purpose? Actually there was a purpose and that was to report to Ron of any bad behavior of a member — in other words, a tattletale! This went against the grain of all my education and experience in government along with my experience in church structure that I was accustomed to in Worldwide Church of God. I came to the conclusion that I was dealing with a micromanaging dictator! This did not set well with me to say the least. This was the beginning of my taking a different view of what CoG-PKG was all about.
However, let me say this: some may think that I was out of line because this was Ron Weinland’s church and I was overstepping my bounds. Not so. I understand government and I know how it functions. CoG-PKG, in my opinion, had all the trappings of a cult! This was the moment when the rose colored glasses hit the ground and shattered!!
But the real failure of Ron Weinland was his second failure of Christ’s return in 2012. I can remember clearly sitting on my patio wondering “why” this event did not happen! Well, to make a long story short, I gave it another year. However, the thrill was gone and I started looking deeper into all the doctrinal changes from what I learned in WCG that Ron claimed to have authority to change.
Let’s start with the proclaiming of being a prophet. I need to interject here that the questioning of the claim of being a prophet started when I was looking up something in the OT that I came across the eighteenth chapter of Deuteronomy verses 20-22. Let me tell you this! Those verses were burned into my mind and ended the influence of Ron Weinland immediately! Do I think this was an intervention of God? Absolutely!! For me, it was the absolute end of CoG-PKG!! Also, I scrutinized this matter of claiming to be the two witnesses and I was appalled at myself for believing such heresy! At this point, I was done!
Another element in the decision to leave CoG-PKG was the court transcripts of Ron Weinland’s trial. The only two transcripts that I read were the government’s opening statement and the memorandum of sentencing and that was all it took!! Case closed!! It is over and done with!! However, I had a bigger problem to deal with and that was on how to make my exit.
My exit was very trying for me, in that, I knew the effect it would have on the Florida group and my wife Diane. This was very difficult for me to deal with and I knew I had to go. But, as fate would have it, my wife noticed that I no longer read the postings and was very inattentive during sermons and basically ignored everything about CoG-PKG. So, the day came when my wife sat down with me and asked me if I still believed Ron and Laura were who they claimed to be. My answer to her was NO! We had a very long discussion and I told her I would be resigning after Pentecost. Well, my wife did not agree with that and simply stated, “you need to go now”. I jumped at the opportunity and composed my resignation letter and emailed it out to Johnny without any hesitation!! Do I think that this was God’s intervention again? Absolutely! I was freed to leave CoG-PKG with my wife’s blessings!! BAM, I was out and gone!!!!
In closing, I am sure some of you who knew me or of me are asking yourselves, why is Jeffery posting at this site? This is a fair question to ask. I will tell you this, I strongly believe I am to do this for the reason that a voice must be heard from a source that is credible to some members of CoG-PKG. Is there an element of anger from me? Yes there is, to a point. I speak for myself and from my experience, the Weinlands are charlatans and are heartless to the highest degree! As I see myself, it is my duty to speak out against them and I will do so! Why? Because if the voices are silent then they (Weinlands) will continue in their deceitful activities destroying spiritual lives and marriages for their own selfish gains unchecked!
If you care to comment on this development, go HERE.
Herbert Armstrong was certainly a bad neighbor. For the most part, he was a bad neighbor to the Church of God Seventh Day.
To picture this better, let’s compare this to the hit movie, Neighbors, where a young couple with a baby has a fraternity move next door. (The movie is so explicit that even some of the previews are rated ‘R’.) It’s what you might expect: The couple dotes on their new baby while the fraternity throws outrageous parties. The couple tries to “make nice” but the antagonist is not having any part of it. Delta Psi has a rich history of epic party moments. Teddy (played by Zach Efron) wants to have his picture on the fraternity wall of fame by throwing the most outrageous end-of-the-year party ever. What follows is a war between the couple and the fraternity.
Early on, Herbert Armstrong wanted his picture on the wall of fame as an apostle, seeking the most epic end-of-the-world party ever! To do this, he leaves the Church of God Seventh Day and begins his own fraternity replete with quite of lot of boozing and sex. The Church of God Seventh Day wants to live in peace with the Radio Church of God next door, but it’s pretty clear early on that there’s going to be war, even if it is a rather one-sided war with Herbert being the antagonist.
Here are a few quotes from Robert Garringer in the 1970s:
Here, perhaps are the real reasons why HWA left the Church of God as put forth by some of his fellow ministers:
John Kiesz: “The real reason seems to have been because of his uncooperative attitude…. Nobody can work with him.”
Brother Helms: “Herbert wouldn’t study…. Herbert was always the big man and everybody else was the little man.”
Elder Haber: “He [HWA] said that he didn’t have to pay any attention to anybody.”
Elder Straub: “Here was the point. We put him on the radio. It was the church…. But he wasn’t willing to study with the ministers, and what the Church of God was teaching…. There was no way of reasoning with the man…. He had his way, he ordered the people….
In 1935 the ministers offered him a study [of British Israelism], to sit together and study it out; they wanted to know. And he flatly denied and said, ‘There will be no study. I’m going to preach what I think should be preached.’ He’s definitely an independent man that takes nothing from nobody…. He won’t listen to any reasoning. What he says just goes. How can one man be so sure?”
It is obvious, then, from history and from the mouths of several different individuals that HWA did not receive his teachings from God by revelation and that he was both a member and minister of the Church of God-which he called the true church and which he left.
Furthermore, just being uncooperative was not enough: Herbert Armstrong decided that the Church of God Seventh Day was the Sardis Era of the church which had a name that it lived but was dead, while he, in his hubris, had concluded that he headed up the Philadelphian Era of the church known for its brotherly love. Herbert Armstrong made snide allusions to the Church of God Seventh Day as not living up to his expectations. He told of his encounter with the leaders and concluded that they did not “radiate power” — his expectation is that they were not ministers of Jesus but were Corporate Business CEOs, so by his evaluation, they weren’t important enough to be anything at all.
If we consider the members of the Worldwide Church of God (represented as the fraternity, Psi Chi Gamma) as Herbert Armstrong’s neighbors, the picture gets even worse. Ambassador College may have looked impressive, but there are reasons that Herbert Armstrong himself called it “Satan’s College”, ironic since he was the high school dropout chancellor of the place. Many of the members did not know about the pot parties and beer busts the students of the 1970s era had, but it was not unlike the fraternities of the Greek System. To that add Garner Ted Armstrong who claimed he bedded 200 coeds in 20 years and you have a picture of campus life. Richard Roper of the Chicago Sun Times has to say about the antagonist of the Neighbors movie:
Zac Efron, shirtless through much of the film and sculpted to the point he looks like an entrant in Mr. Universe, Small But Mighty Division, plays Teddy Sanders, one of those guys who knows exactly how great-looking he is and exactly how to turn on the personality to seduce people, whether it’s for sex or “bromance” or to get out of trouble with authority figures. He’s one of those guys you want to despise, but then you meet him and you find yourself saying to the haters, “He’s actually not so bad.”
That pretty much sums up Garner Ted Armstrong: “He’s actually not so bad”. But he was. And not to put too fine a point on it, the same could be said of Herbert Armstrong — that he could be charming when he wanted to be but ruthless when he wanted to be, leaving people to say, “He’s actually not so bad”. But he was.
Now it may be that bad behavior of bad neighbors represented by reprehensible neighbors may be excused after they get through sowing their wild oats, but not so for Herbert Armstrong — his bad behavior persisted up until he died at 93 years old (in his 94th year). Richard Roper had this to say of the movie:
When Mac and Kelly are home, trying to catch sleep or cuddling in bed or spontaneously having sex (“This is happening!” cries Mac) only to be distracted by their newborn, “Neighbors” seems authentic. A couple of scenes between Teddy and Pete, where Pete tells Teddy it’s time to wake up and grow up and think about life beyond the frat house, also ring true.
Herbert Armstrong never did wake up, grow up and think about life beyond his frat house — the frat house was his life. He wasn’t above being vengeful to claim the glory of being right and proving other people who opposed him wrong. It was an ego thing.
Now new chapters of Psi Chi Gamma have popped up with their head frat guys wanting to have their picture on the wall of fame. Certainly, Ronald Weinland has left his mark partying on with his wife with her lingerie from Victoria’s Secret, paid for by the tithes of the PKG, having been convicted of five felonies for Income Tax Evasion. Then there’s bad neighbor, David Pack. He’s a real handful. It’s hard to imagine anyone but those on his payroll ever saying, “He’s actually not so bad!”. Gerald Flurry has his very own DUI online proving that he can party hardy, particularly on a Feast Day. The list goes on and on, but certainly Yisrael Hawkins over his little cult fraternity of the House of Yaweh takes honorable mention for having been featured on several episodes of Dr. Phil — a really bad neighbor, who has had boys 11 years old at labor with no pay for long hours a day (not to mention the polygamy, in some cases with minors). It’s just disgusting.
You’d think these people would grow up some day and abandon the sex, booze, noise, pranks and hubris of fraternity life. It should be inevitable. After all, the Scripture they claim their members should obey (and the hazing of initiation of the pledges is often excruciating) includes that part that false prophets shall be put to death. Each of them has a death sentence, yet they continue to party on other people’s money. They don’t seem to realize they are on probation. Don’t they fear God? Are they atheists?
In any event, they are bad neighbors. The fraternity has moved in next door. Don’t expect much peace. Don’t call the cops — they won’t help.
The best you can do is quietly leave and move away, because — unlike the frats in the movie – they are never going to grow up.
We think that we live in violent times, and of course, to some extent, we do. The evening news regularly carries stories and images of war, terror, or murder. But the big question is whether violence is going up or down. Because if violence is not going up, how can we be in the end times?
Stephen Pinker, author of the 2012 book The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined has studied the trend of violence in history and his data shows, surprisingly to many, that violence is going down!
According to Pinker, whether we believe it or not, we may be living in the most peaceful time in human history. People who think violence is going up don’t realize how much violence there was in the past.
The bible does not say that we are in the end times now; it does not give a date. It only gives us signs to look for. One of the major signs is that of violence. (“You will hear of wars and rumours of wars”—Matt 24:6). The Churches of God have been telling us that violence has been going up. Herbert Armstrong lived during the time of two major conflicts: World Wars I and II. In such a time it was easy to conclude that violence was going up, and for those few years, it was. But we need to look at the whole picture (we were always told to “get the big picture” in any situation) and do the math. We must not assume. The second world war ended a long time ago (69 years ago, in 1945). Since that time violence has gone down, not up. We might now be living in the most peaceful time in history! This comes as a great surprise to people who live by impressions and short-sighted data rather than by historical trends. People rely too much on sensationalist daily news, which focuses on current events and other short-term trends. Some people will refuse to believe that violence is in decline. They will not look at the actual data. The two world wars of the early 20 century were temporary “blips”. They did not lead to the end, and they were not signs of the end. And there are no conflicts in the world today even close to that scale.